Carton finishers in Melbourne’s south could soon begin protected industrial action in an effort to defend a key entitlement under threat by their management.
AMWU Print Division organiser Tony Piccolo said negotiations on a new collective agreement at Colorpak’s Mt Waverly site had broken down over the issue of sick leave entitlements - traditionally paid out upon redundancy.
“Colorpak would like to introduce a grandfather clause for current workers and not pay sick leave entitlements to new employees. This is obviously a tactic to eventually take it off the wider workforce.
“This is something the workers fought for years. It wasn’t that long ago that they finally won it so they are very reluctant to now give it away.”
AMWU delegate John Zeiba said members at Colorpak felt very strongly about the issue.
“We’ve said all along we’re not going to create a two-tired system. We don’t want a situation where some workers are on better conditions than others. And we’re willing to take management head on.”
Colorpak, which in January reported $106m in revenue for the first half of the financial year - a 142% increase on the same time last year - has a 30% share of the Australian folding carton market.
In 2011, the company introduced major price increases for its folding carton products in a bid to boost returns.
“We’ve been told the company are in it for the long haul. Well, that’s all well and good but while you’re raising prices, you also want to take something away from workers … we’re not going to cop it,” Zeiba said.
He also said since management had initiated its attack on the entitlements, union membership had grown to nearly 100%.
“We’ve seen people who have never been members before sign up. They’ve see there could be a fight on and they’re ready to support us.”